Humor Me

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Keeping my sense of humor during this time of transition in my life is a challenge.  I used to think that nothing would dull my ability to laugh at life, whether it be sickness or trial, and for the most part that has been the truth.  This has not been a time of wailing, depression, or extreme loneliness — those times came before.  The challenge comes in maintaining the proper motivation for life, pushing through, staying strong, doing what needs to be done.  Even more of a stretch is recognizing what this whole divorce situation is doing to my family, how they are handling it, and deciding how I should react.

That might be the most difficult challenge.  Already aggressive and angry before my wife and I headed towards divorce, his anger was magnified by the announcement.  It’s tough for him watching the house literally and figuratively being dismantled, prepared for sale and the finality of what certainly means an end to life as he knows it.  I get it.  I feel for him.

That said, I have to carry on, keep working on getting the house ready to sell, despite his protests and his lashing out.  A week ago, last Saturday, I began preparing our living and dining rooms for painting, took down pictures and patched and taped the trim.  The living room is where my son retreats when he gets tired of playing video games in his bedroom, even has taking to sleeping on the living room couch most nights (which I do not like).  After working all day and evening last Saturday, I plopped on the couch and settled in to watch a movie, the second installment of the Rambo series.  Just as Rambo started getting into it with the bad guys, a perturbed male voice announced behind me — CHANGE THE CHANNEL, I WANT TO WATCH THE FOOTBALL GAME.  I was tired, drained, and not ready for the conflict that had just been thrust at me.  On top of that, I can’t think of a time in recent history where my son has not done exactly the same thing to me.  I rarely get to watch more than ten minutes of a movie before my son enters, demands the channel be changed, or snatches the TV remote to change the channel.

This time I refused.  I told him no.  When he started to fight me about it, I stood up.  Immediately, I had a large 17 year old boy swinging at me and connecting.  I yelled at him, told him to stop and think about what he was doing.  When he started swinging at me again, I knocked him to the floor, slapped him on the arm, backed up and told him to leave me alone.  He didn’t.  He jumped up and tried to tackle me, then when he failed to do that ran out in bare feet and shorts to the garage, where he grabbed a hammer from my workbench.  Stomping back across the garage, he announced to me that he was going to use the hammer to put holes in the walls inside the house.  I stopped him.  He swung the hammer at me halfheartedly, then threw it against the inside of the garage door.  Retreating to my workbench, where my mountain bike was also parked, he stood on the carpet there, threatening to find a tool to use to wreck my bike.

He stood there for two hours, barefooted and in shorts.  It was 7 degrees outside.  I stood inside the house, asked him to come inside and talk about what was going on, told him I was sorry for what is going on, explained that nothing he could do would change the situation.  Any damage he would do would only make the situation worse.  My son pleaded with me, don’t sell the house.  It has to be sold, I told him.

He’s angry.  I get it.  So am I, for that matter.  He’s also trying to control, using the divorce as another excuse to be aggressive.  I get that too.

At one point, I called 911 but hung up before they answered (it rang 3 times without an answer).  I didn’t want to deal with a son who was frostbitten.  I didn’t want to have to fight him, which he was challenging me to do.  I didn’t want my mountain bike to be damaged, a prize to me in more ways than one.  And I was too tired to deal with the situation for much longer.  I feigned a call to his mother, who was out with friends.  I called a friend, who at 11:30 PM had already gone to bed.  My only real choice, besides asking the law to intercede, was to wait it out.

Eventually she came home, nearly two hours into the standoff, just as I had reached my breaking point and had started yelling at him to get inside the house.  Hearing me yell, she immediately blamed me for the entire situation.  He’s obviously distraught, she exclaimed, so leave him alone.  I wasn’t going to leave until he did, even as they both berated me for loving my precious bicycle more than them.  After another half hour of standoff, he agreed to leave my bicycle alone if we would leave him alone.  We did.  He came inside, instantly charged me as he came through the door, swinging at me again.  I left, went upstairs, shut the bedroom door behind me and locked it.  It was 12:30.  The conflict had started nearly at 9 PM.

The next morning, when I came home from church, my wife insisted that I finish painting the downstairs rooms and hallway by the end of the day.  She didn’t offer to help.  It was all my fault.  I was wrong for what had happened the night before, needed to be more sensitive to our son.  While I agree with her that he is more sensitive right now, she did not agree with me when I said that he was also trying to take advantage of the situation.  There needed to be a balance.  Instead of backing him up, for a change she needs to support me and not instantly defend him.. for once.  Just because we are getting a divorce does not mean that she does not need to support me.

And so it goes.

I can’t get out of the house fast enough.  This needs to be over.  That was my prayer at 12:30 last Saturday night (or early Sunday morning).

It does suck to be me, enough that it’s almost comical.  The money that I was hoping to use to start the divorce moving was sucked into a car repair, to the tune of $1600 a week ago, with $160 added for a rental car.  Yep.  December 31, my VW decided to rebel.  Maybe it’s angry with me, too?  I only have to laugh.

I have finished painting downstairs, start painting the stairwell and upstairs hall today.  New windows will be installed in the upstairs master bedroom this Wednesday.  New carpet has already been installed, powder room tile regrouted, kitchen cabinets restored, trim replaced, doors rehung, outside of the house cleaned and repaired.  I’m close, probably 2-3 weeks away from the house being ready to list.

I’m trying to be patient.

Until then….

Dumpling

Why don’t you make chicken and dumplings tonight for dinner?  Nate really likes your chicken and dumplings.

My wife texted me late this afternoon, informing me that she is working late, a not so rare occurrence these days.  What is even more rare is for our family to eat dinner together.  What is even more rare is for our son to actually eat what is cooked for dinner. I am a very good cook, but it really doesn’t matter.  Unless my daughter is home, I am going to eat alone.  Meal planning was never my wife’s forte even when she was a SAHM, a precedent that has carried over into the present.

I made the dumplings any way.  I like them.  They are a light version of a standard recipe.  If you don’t mind messing with making the dumplings from scratch, then it’s an easy dish to prepare.

Nate came home from playing tennis with his friends at the club.  Did he eat the dumplings?  No.

I can’t wait until this divorce is final.  I can’t wait until I can plan meals and not worry about anyone else.  The spoiled child is living with his mother.

Happy As A Pig In Mud

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Chicagoland has seen a little over 17 inches of snow this month.  What that means to trail riders such as myself is no riding trails, unless you are blessed with a fat bike that has studded tires.  That’s not me.

BUT it has been dry since Sunday.  Saturday night the temperatures shot into the high forties, causing us to wake up Sunday morning to a green Christmas.  I went to bed looking at a white landscape, woke up to a clear yard.  Monday was in the fifties.  It has been colder since then, but not outrageously cold (at least for we people who are used to cold weather).

fb_img_1482953610893I waited until today.  Waited until I thought it was safe to ride the trails.  BLAM!  I rode this afternoon and it was GREAT.  Mostly clear trails, about half of them completely dry, the others damp enough to cover my back side with mud, as well as a spatter or two on my glasses.  I don’t care.  I got to ride.

Riding was fun, although after three weeks and the holidays had me a bit bleah on the trails.  It was not a fast ride, but it didn’t need to be.

Yay me!

Break

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Here I sit, greasy and unshaven, pondering what to do with my free time while on holiday break.  My office is open today through Thursday of this week, my boss graciously holding down the fort today and Thursday.  I am thoroughly rested, accomplished Saturday while nurturing the affects of too much Christmas cheer on Friday.  While I didn’t really overdo it to the point of it being dangerous, I let my boss buy four rounds at lunch on Friday — which for me is too much.  I arrived home Friday evening, proceeded to pass out on the couch, roused at midnight by my wife.  She wanted to go to sleep and the couch is her bed when our daughter is home from college.

Christmas was actually a nice time.  We went to Christmas eve church services together as a family, celebrated Christmas day at home in our usual fashion.  Of course, this holiday was different than any other in our family, something that I know we all were thinking about even though no one said it.  We consumed our traditional cinnamon roll breakfast, exchanged gifts (nice gifts — my son wanted to give his mother tickets to a James Taylor concert at Wrigley field this summer, so I bought them and he gave them to her).  Don’t go see ‘Fences’, the movie we chose to see at the theater.  It’s real bad.  My guess is that it was far more powerful on the stage, power that did not transfer to the screen.

I am trying to be productive this week.  Finding someone who will replace the two nasty windows in the master bedroom has been a challenge.  No one wants to do just two windows, so they quote high.  Our plan is to replace those two windows, then negotiate a credit for the rest of the windows in the house when we sell the house.  Yesterday, I spent part of the day trying to get quotes for windows, did small projects around the house.  It was a decent day outside, so I washed the siding and shutters on the front of the house, scrubbed the garage door, reattached all the downspouts.  I also attempted to recaulk a window — and may give up on that.  It looks VERY amateur.20161227_105720.jpg

Painting starts next week around the house.  Out of respect for my daughter, I am trying to do very little to the house while she is home from college.  It’s a delicate situation — I need to do things, but I don’t want to add to the angst.

Next week also starts indoor riding season.  I need to get serious again after taking a few weeks off.  Last night I dreamed that I had entered an indoor time trial race, finished in second place despite not riding a road bike for months.  My mind is trying to tell me something.

Hope all is well with everyone.  Thanks for reading and living a little of my life with me during 2016.  Next year should prove to be quite an adventure, so stay tuned.

Not As Dark As I Suspected It Would Be

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I thought I would be numb right now.  I thought that I would be in the throes of misery.  Tonight should have been one of the most terrible experiences of my life.  Why, oh why, do I feel calm and peaceful, serene?

Tonight we had a family meeting.  We told our kids what is about to happen.

I made a decision earlier this week, after listening to my wife waffle, after trying to find a solution to our family Christmas holiday that would be fair to not only my children, but to my family.  After all, my wife had called my mother a few weeks ago and initiated a conversation that pretty much ensured that she would not be welcome at my family’s Christmas celebration.  The result of that phone call made it nearly impossible for us to wait to tell our children about our divorce until after Christmas.  With that in mind, I texted my daughter, found out when her last college final exam would be (Wednesday of this week), asked when she would be home (this afternoon).  My decision was a tough one, one that could not be shared with my wife because she would not go along with it.  I doubted the wisdom also, but my gut told me to do it.  Wednesday night, I talked to my daughter, told her that her mother would not be going with us this Saturday to celebrate Christmas with my family.  Her mother had a falling out with my parents.

You and I both know that would not fly with my daughter, especially if you know my daughter.  I called her from my car, on the way home from a meeting.  Before I arrived home, she had already texted her mother and asked what was going on.  My wife was not happy with me, not just because I had put her in a bad position, but because she claimed I had lied when I said she had a falling out with my parents.  I didn’t fight with her, simply reminded her of the phone call that she had made and the circumstances that were created as a result.  It was true that earlier this week she had offered to go to my family Christmas, my mother advising her against it.  That was why she was claiming that I had lied to our daughter.

A portion of my decision rested on the fact that I knew my daughter would have a day to think about things.  She would have the support of her friends.  She would be able to meet with a counselor she has been seeing at her college.  My girl is strong.  She does not avoid.  When she got home, she talked with her mother for a while, then requested a family meeting to find out what was going on.

I am very glad that she did.  We sat down as a family, calmly, and my wife and I gave our children the news.

“This is something that should have happened a long time ago, for the sake of all of us.”  My daughter delivered that statement with resolve.  And she is right.

As suspected, she was not surprised.  My son feigned surprise, tried to act angry, but it was weak, something I think he may have already rehearsed and realized that it wasn’t the best.  He retreated, went up to his room.  Nate is going to require some space, but he is also going to require the most care, I think.

At the moment, tonight seems to have needed to happen when it did.  Now the gorilla has been dismissed.  We can celebrate Christmas together in a week, knowing that we still have some time together in the home that we have shared.

Waddayathink?

Getting ready for D-day is a lot of work.  There is a house that needs to be readied for sale.  Even though I am fairly diligent with house maintenance, I still have things that need to be done before our place is presentable.  My goal in the past few years is to do one major thing to the house a year — new furnace one year, new air conditioner and coil, new asphalt driveway, and a new roof this past summer.  Windows were the next thing, a necessity for a 30 year old house, but they have been moved up in priority.  Carpet on the stairs and hallway also is being done in the next few weeks.

So far, I have managed to hang three new doors, replace two faucets and a bathtub drain, repair and refinish floor cracks/divots, install a new shelf under the kitchen sink, scrub the siding on the back of the house, rehang a loose shutter, scrub the wood deck, replace the door closer on the front door, put a new light in the laundry room, fix a spot in the master bedroom wall where my son punched a hole, repair a cracked door threshold on my daughter’s bedroom door and replace the strike plate (another son inflicted blemish), move a treadmill from the upstairs bedroom to the garage (and sell it on Craigslist), clear the books off of a bookshelf.  Whew!  If it looks like a lot, it is.  That has all happened in a three week period.  That doesn’t include finding a realtor to sell the house, or meeting estimators to replace the carpet and windows.

My favorite project so far has been rehabbing the kitchen cabinets.  Until I started working on them, I didn’t realize how nasty they really were.  They hadn’t been cleaned for years, plus many of the hinges would no longer close.  I removed all of the cabinet doors and hinges, scrubbed them with Murphy’s Oil Soap, and applied a finish restoring stain to them (the stuff is reallllllly good).  The ends of the cabinets that face windows were badly faded, so I got some oak end pieces and covered them, then stained them.  Finding the right replacement hinges was a trick, enough that I only replaced a few, fixed the ones that were totally bad.  It took me a few days, but after the doors were put back in place and the finish rehabbed, I am pretty stinking proud of myself.

The realtor also has shown some affordable condos to me, only a mile from my house.  They are fairly old, built in 1977. but in a nice area and in good shape.  Each condo has an attached garage.  Buying, if I buy one of those condos, will be approximately $600 less than monthly rent for an apartment (an expensive venture around here).

There is a lot to do.  We haven’t had the time to start on the actual divorce, mostly because I have been too busy with the house.  Once the house is ready and the holidays over, I will be more motivated to get to work on the real difficult task.

I don’t like the thought of what is looming ahead.  The holidays will not likely be pleasant.  Our kids will probably find out about the pending divorce, my popularity most likely will take a hit.  Christmas could be real lonely for me.  Maybe I am wrong, but I am probably not.  I guess maybe it will be a good idea to keep my nose to the grindstone, keep busy.

Any way.. about the kitchen cabinets.. waddayathink?

My Wealth

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The Job of the Bible was a wealthy man.

Why?  Well, he was blessed for being blameless and upright, he feared God and shunned evil. 

His blessing?  He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

I like that Job was celebrated by his family, enjoyed wine and feasts at his home and their homes.  God’s blessing was meant to be consumed, to be shared, a bounty Job recognized as coming from the God he served.  His wealth was measured in the blessing he received — children, sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys, servants.  Abraham, another biblical figure recognized for God’s wealthy blessing, was considered wealthy for basically the same reasons.  They both were blessed for and maintained a steadfast commitment to a God who was very real to them, a God they recognized as the source of all of their blessing.

I am a wealthy man.  You may not recognize that by looking at me.  I don’t have a big wardrobe of fancy clothes, my house is a modest two story and small by many standards, my bank account balance is always slim, my car a nice VW.  I don’t have cows, sheep, oxen, camels or donkeys, servants.

So why am I wealthy?  I have bicycles.  I am blessed by being able to ride them.  Earlier today, I was sharing with a friend here that this riding season has been extended, the temperatures up to December comfortable.  There has not been a single frozen ride for me yet.  If the weather continues like it has been, I will be riding dry trails until the end of the year.  That, my friend, is a blessing.

Now, I don’t have a large stable of bikes.  I am not wealthy in that way.  Two weekends ago, my nice Specialized Camber FSR had a mechanical failure, the rear shock seals needed service.  Considering that I had a four day weekend coming up, I wanted my bike.  I carted my bike to the shop the Saturday before Thanksgiving, my ride cut short by the failed shock, hoping and praying that the shop would turn the repair around quickly.  Since I am a regular there, they usually do.  The shop tech checked stock for the shock seal kit, confirmed that they were in stock, tagged my bike, told me he would call when it was done.

I received a call from the shop the day after Thanksgiving.  My bike was ready for me.  ZOOM!!!!  Amused shop personnel waited for me with my bike out and ready for me as I walked in the shop.  Hmmmm.. maybe my excitement was too evident when I talked to them on the phone?

Three rides over the weekend.  Three glorious rides.  I am wealthy, indeed.

 

A Thanksgiving Turkey

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Before I scrub up and begin preparing my much requested cheese potatoes, I thought I would drop a few lines in here.  Shortly, my family will begin stirring and Thanksgiving day will start.  This one is going to a little different for me, one that will require a bit of acting on my part.

If you didn’t pick up on this one a few blogs ago, where I hinted around to you, this is going to be some news for you.  I am not writing about it, have refrained from making this announcement simply because I have tried to dial down on the real personal stuff in this blog, especially knowing that my wife monitors this blog.  A little over a year ago, I discovered the notes that she was writing from my blog, for what reason I don’t know.  It was obvious from the notes that either she planned to use them against me in counseling or perhaps if she could use them as leverage in a divorce.

My friends, that is what is happening.  I will be celebrating Thanksgiving today with my wife’s family, knowing that she asked me for a divorce on November 3rd, minutes after the final out of the World Series.  While Cub fans were celebrating all around my neighborhood, I was contemplating the announcement that she was granting me the divorce that I had asked for last year.

It wasn’t a surprise, really.  She has grown increasingly distant, avoiding contact with me.  In the last 16 months, there was no interest in showing me that she really wants to be my wife, something that I needed to see.  Really I needed to see that far before then, but since she asked me to give it at least one more try, I had hoped that she would give an effort.

I asked her the next morning, via text, if she meant what she had said the night before.  She confirmed that yes, she did mean it.  For almost a week, she avoided me so much that I saw her maybe one minute during a six day period that followed her announcement.  Once we got together, the atmosphere was calm and friendly, the wall of resentment that had been there before at least temporarily gone.  We discussed the timing of the divorce, when we would tell our children, how we would go about getting the divorce (use an online method called Wevorce), who would get the house (me.. although that has changed).  Part of the agreement we reached was that I would go to her family’s Thanksgiving celebration, she would go to my family’s Christmas.  We would tell our children, together, after Christmas.

After she called my parents and burned several bridges with them, she can’t go to my family Christmas.  Now we have to tell our children as soon as our daughter gets home from college for Christmas.

I have kept my mind and body busy by going about the tasks needed to get ready for the divorce.  My wife changed her mind about the house, actually requested that she get the house while I continue to make the mortgage payments (ummmm…. no), so the plan changed to something more fair for us.  We will sell the house and split the equity.  So I found a realtor, have started doing the little things around the house to get it ready to sell.  Our realtor recommended a handyman who works cheap, $20/hour, and he came by yesterday to help with stuff that I just don’t do quickly.. or have failed to do properly.

Such as these doors20161124_084608

I bought these nice solid oak bi-fold doors a year ago, stained them, and did a real bad job hanging them.  They worked famously until the bottom brackets ripped out of the wall.  The handyman fixed that plus added a nice oak threshold.

He patched a crack in the wall plus a few drywall tape cracks.  I could do those, but the result would not have been as pretty as the job the hired man performed.20161124_084634

I have shored up common debt, worked out a pre and post divorce budget, fixed a lot of stuff around the house, even moved a treadmill downstairs from the master bedroom and sold it on Craigslist.  That has kept me busy enough to keep my emotions numb, for the most part.

The most difficult place for me to be, difficult before the divorce announcement, worse since, is church.  That is where we met and being there by myself has been lonely for some time.  Last Sunday, I found myself shedding my first tears of grief at church.  I didn’t break down in front of a lot of people, just one friend as I told him that serving at Christmas might be tough for me, and I regained composure quickly.  I do fear what Christmas has in store.  My kids will know, may not want me around, and I may be alone for the first time ever at this time of year.

Until then, I will savor this last Thanksgiving to celebrate as a devoted husband and father.  It is going to be my last in that capacity.

Chicken Butt

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You know what?

No, not chicken butt.

No matter what happens, Saturdays are very difficult to ruin.  Saturdays most often are my days, days to get all that important stuff done, to ride ride ride ride, to kick back.  I protect my Saturdays, rarely give them away if at all possible.  When my kids were younger it was a different story, what with all kinds of kid stuff and their sports and little trips.  Even then, I always made it a priority to ride my bike, even if it meant BCDing it (Butt Crack of Dawning it).

Today was supposed to be very, very cold, as in the 20 degree range.  Instead, it was 36 degrees when I set out at 8 AM, clothed in fleece lined tights and three layers up top.  I was hopeful to find rideable dirt trails at Saw Wee Kee park, even though there were periodic downpours early in the day yesterday.  My VW carted my bike and I to the woods, found absolutely pristine conditions, almost as if it hadn’t rained for days.  Hallelujah!

My friend, Jon, was already out on the trails, his van the only vehicle in the parking lot as I arrived.  I knew I would find my energetic friend somewhere out in the woods.  Jon had probably been there for several hours.  There is no one who likes to ride more than Jon.

There was one problem.  As I landed my first jump, I heard the clunk of the rear shock bottoming out.  The bike felt like it was riding low, confirmed by a sharp pedal strike a few more feet after that landing.  I pulled to a stop, dismounted, inspected the shock and found exactly what I suspected — the seal was shot.  My ride was likely over unless it was simply a case of the shock being low on air, an easy fix since I had a shock pump in my car.  I turned back to the parking lot as Jon rolled up, followed me back to my car.

Things looked better after I pumped the shock up.  It held full pressure, sat real nice as I hit the auto sag.  Jon and I rolled back onto the trail.  I flew over the first few jumps, felt the rear end of my bike drop.  Sure enough, the shock did not hold pressure.  Ride over.

Jon and I took some time to catch up on things before heading back to our cars.  I had news for him, news that shocked the snot out of him.  We talked about it for a while and I assured him that I am OK.

Good thing my bike shop is on the way home.  Looks like they have the seals in stock.  I should get the bike back and get some rides in before the snow and ice takes back the trails for the winter.

So I decided this was going to be a day to get things done.  I did.  Cleaned up the back yard, repaired a window and screen, finally moved that useless treadmill out of the upstairs master bedroom and sold it on Craigslist, put together a list of supplies needed for repairs around the house, straightened up the back yard shed.  The treadmill ended up sticking in the maximum incline position when I tested it in the garage, so I gave it away instead of selling it — but it’s gone.

I built a nice little fire in the fire ring, enjoyed a conversation next to the fire with my friend Gina when she brought my spare mountain bike over for me.  Perfect timing for her to bring it back.  Gina teaches mountain bike skills classes for the local mountain bike riding association, had borrowed my spare to use with her students.  Great timing.  Now I can ride tomorrow.

It’s a quiet evening, solitary and good, my music keeping me company as I write, my orange and white feline friend warming in my lap.  Saturday is always good, almost impossible to ruin.

Stay thirsty, my friends.